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First drive: 2017 BMW 5 Series. Image by Uwe Fischer.

First drive: 2017 BMW 5 Series
We joined BMW's chassis team in Wales to test drive the new 5 Series before its suspension sign-off.

 



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2017 BMW 5 Series

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Bet you didn't know that BMW sends a team of engineers to a quiet corner of North Wales twice a year with a bunch of test cars. Turns out that the roads are uniquely challenging, well-surfaced and, well, quiet. That's where we caught up with the chassis development team working on signing off the 2017 BMW 5 Series. They even let us take the wheel for a few hours.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: 2017 BMW 540i sDrive
Pricing: estimated at circa. 45,000
Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Power: 326hp at 5,500- to 6,500rpm (estimate)
Torque: 450Nm at 1,380- to 5,000rpm (estimate)

Model tested: 2017 BMW 530d xDrive
Pricing: estimated at circa. 45,000
Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Power: 265hp at 4,000rpm (estimate)
Torque: 620Nm at 2,000- to 2,500rpm (estimate)

Model tested: 2017 BMW 530i sDrive
Pricing: estimated at circa. 40,000
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Power: 245hp at 5,000- to 6,500rpm (estimate)
Torque: 350Nm at 1,250- to 4,800rpm (estimate)

What's this?

A much disguised example of the 2017 BMW 5 Series. These pictures were taken in May of this year, when we travelled deep into North Wales to meet up with BMW's chassis engineers as they finished a stint of on-road testing of the new four-door executive saloon. We were asked not to pay too much attention to the interior nor the powertrain, as the vehicles made available to us were test cars used for various reasons by the development team, and not really representative of the showroom model. We were, however, asked to look at the chassis in detail, as it was said to be 90 per cent finished.

To allow us experience as many chassis iterations as possible, BMW laid on three cars. The first was a 540i sDrive (rear-wheel drive) automatic, fitted with Variable Damping Control and Integral Active Steering. The second was a 530d xDrive (four-wheel drive) automatic, again with Integral Active Steering, but this time with sport suspension. That means fixed-rate damping, 10mm lower and stiffer springs and a thicker front anti-roll bar. The final car of the day was a 530i sDrive on standard suspension and without rear-wheel steering.

How does it drive?

While the adaptive damping and rear-wheel steering systems are impressive, particularly the latter, we were most impressed by the sport suspension option. It seems to fit best with BMW's own brief for the new 5 Series, in that it endows it with great body and wheel control, yet without the bone-jarring ride that used to characterise such things. The standard suspension isn't far behind, if not quite as taut feeling, though it did reveal that the 5 Series is agile even without the rear-wheel steering. The regular electric power steering system is well-judged too, mixing lightness of touch with some useful feedback and resistance on initial turn-in.

After several hours at the wheel over some of the best driving roads in the country, we can safely say that the new 5 Series is more fun to drive than its predecessor. Whether it can retake the class crown in that department remains to be seen, but we wouldn't bet against it.

Verdict

BMW wants to cement the position of its 5 Series as the sportiest to drive executive saloon in the segment, yet without taking away any of the comfort that has undoubtedly helped the current car be its most successful yet. First impressions suggest that BMW has nailed its own brief. The new car is great to drive and yet supple where it needs to be. We're looking forward to driving the showroom-ready version in November.

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics


Shane O' Donoghue - 6 Sep 2016









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2017 BMW 5 Series prototype. Image by Uwe Fischer.2017 BMW 5 Series prototype. Image by Uwe Fischer.2017 BMW 5 Series prototype. Image by Uwe Fischer.2017 BMW 5 Series prototype. Image by Uwe Fischer.2017 BMW 5 Series prototype. Image by Uwe Fischer.

2017 BMW 5 Series prototype. Image by Uwe Fischer.2017 BMW 5 Series prototype. Image by Uwe Fischer.2017 BMW 5 Series prototype. Image by Uwe Fischer.2017 BMW 5 Series prototype. Image by Uwe Fischer.2017 BMW 5 Series prototype. Image by Uwe Fischer.








 

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